With the top two teams in America East (Stony Brook and Albany) scheduled to meet Friday night, the winner of Thursday’s contest between New Hampshire and UMass-Lowell could be within a game of first place heading into the weekend. The two teams produced an entertaining game in Lowell, Massachusetts, and the winner wasn’t decided until the game’s final shot.
Luckily for New Hampshire junior guard Daniel Dion had the ball in his hands, catching an inbounds pass and hitting a left-handed three-pointer as time expired to give the Wildcats a 78-76 win. Video of the shot, which was a tough one with Dion’s momentum taking him away from the basket, can be seen in the embedded tweet above.
Dion, who scored seven points off the bench, made just one of his four three-point attempts on the night. Good timing.
2014-15 America East Preview: Does Stony Brook finally make the Tournament?
The major storyline entering the America East in the 2014-2015 season is if Stony Brook can finally get over the hump and make the program’s first NCAA Tournament. After four 20-win seasons in five years and multiple losses in the America East conference tournament title game, the Seawolves are the close favorites in a conference that loses some talented and experienced players.
Stony Brook and head coach Steve Pikiell return reigning conference player of the year Jameel Warney at forward and guard Carson Puriefoy and his 12.9 points and 43 percent three-point shooting to the rotation and gain some talented players as well. Redshirt freshman Roland Nyama is a high-upside athlete from Germany who could see significant minutes and Pikiell is expecting a potentially deep rotation.
Hartford likely poses as the biggest threat to Stony Brook as the Hawks will welcome back their top seven scorers from last season. Senior forward Mark Nwakamma is an all-league talent and Yolonzo Moore II and Wes Cole are an experienced senior back court. If there is one thing Hartford has to improve: rebounding. The Hawks were outglassed by an average of 4.3 rebounds per game last year.
Albany is always stronger as the season goes on under head coach Will Brown, and they’ve won the America East conference tournament title four times — including last season — to only one league regular season title. Junior guard Peter Hooley and senior wing forward Sam Rowley both return for the Great Danes and that should give them a good start to build one.
After winning 22 games a season ago, Vermont loses six seniors and its top four scorers, but the program hasn’t had a losing record in league play since 2005-06 and returns some talent. Junior forward Ethan O’Day and senior forward Hector Harold is the foundation of an experienced front court and Vermont also has a decent recruiting class.
Binghamton and UMBC will compete in the America East thanks to all-league guards. The Bearcats have 6-foot-4 guard Jordan Reed while UMBC returns league Rookie of the Year Rodney Elliot.
PRESEASON AMERICA EAST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jameel Warney, Stony Brook
The reigning America East Player of the Year is only a junior and the 6-foot-8 forward has shot 61 percent from the field in both of his seasons at Stony Brook. Warney averaged 14.5 points, 8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game last season and is one of the most dominant offensive forces in the conference.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-AMERICA EAST TEAM:
Mark Nwakamma, Hartford – The 6-foot-8 senior forward was a first-team All-America East selection last season after averaging 15.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
Peter Hooley, Albany – The 6-foot-4 junior guard averaged 15.5 points per game last season and will be the Great Danes’ key player this season.
Jordan Reed, Binghamton – Another 6-foot-4 junior guard, Reed totaled 15.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while upping his three-point percentage to 35 percent from 13.
Rodney Elliott, UMBC – The 6-foot sophomore is the reigning America East Rookie of the Year after averaged 15 points, 3.6 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
One of the final teams to release their schedule for the upcoming season — Long Island University is another school that has yet to release their schedule — Dartmouth and coach Paul Cormier have pieced together a pedestrian 14 game non-conference schedule that is highlighted with games at Illinois and St. John’s.
Ironically enough, however, the Big Green’s two most challenging games of the season will most likely come against Ivy League foe Harvard, rather than the two BCS teams on the slate.
While Dartmouth’s non-conference schedule is hardly challenging for many teams — even decent mid-major squads — it is a realistic one for them. This is a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 1998-99, and have averaged a meager 7.5 wins over the last 14 seasons. Case in point, their first three games of the season are at home against Lyndon State, Bryant, and UMass Lowell — several years ago these were all sub-Division 1 programs with Lyndon State still a Division 3 school.
Some mid-major programs of Dartmouth’s level take on the “triple AAA” approach — anytime, anyone, anywhere — in order to gain maximum exposure and attract prospective recruits. Cormier explains his scheduling philosophy, which is a different approach, yet looks to achieve the same goal: “My scheduling philosophy is to try and play games in areas we would like to recruit and also near the hometowns of our players.”
With nine games being played in the state of New Hampshire — eight at home in Hanover and one in Durham at the University of New Hampshire — one may infer that Cormier strives to recruit players around the New England area, however, seven of the 16 players on the roster are from either New York or New Jersey. It is worth nothing that three of their five road non-conference games are against Illinois, Northern Illinois, and IPFW, and two players do hail from Illinois.
The Big Green are one of the youngest teams in the country with just four upperclassmen on the roster.